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Why Hitler and AIDS awareness don't belong in a sex video together

When it comes to using Holocaust metaphors, the power of suggestion is a loaded and delicate thing. Striking the right chord becomes ever more slippery when, for example, you use the most recognizable image of Holocaust evil, Adolf Hitler, to illustrate the recklessness of unprotected sex. But you just about lose any hope of keeping that line clean and clear when you make a Hitler sex video for an AIDS PSA. Which is what a small German AIDS awareness group called, Regenbogen e.V, did. 

While the Telegraph says the clip appears to be a "typical advert" at first glance, I imagine most American viewers won't agree. The act of intimacy being portrayed is basically soft-core porn. It shows two very naked hard-bodies engaged in some very steamy sex. (Warning: this video ain't for the kiddies and is probably not safe for work.) The commercial's obvious-to-the-point-of-insult message, that unprotected sex is very, very dangerous, is hammered home with a rather indelicate ... bang. As the couple reaches climax, the man's face is revealed -- it's Hitler. Scary, indeed.

Not surprisingly the ad, released in Britain to coincide with World AIDS day, has created a storm of controversy. A spokesman for the National AIDS Trust, the group that coordinates World AIDS Day in Britain, had this to say: 

Of course there are many HIV organisations that run their own campaigns, however I think the advert is incredibly stigmatising to people living with HIV who already face much stigma and discrimination due to ignorance about the virus.

"On top of this it fails to provide any kind of actual prevention message (e.g. use a condom) and may deter people to come forward for testing.

"The advert is also inaccurate because in the UK thanks to treatment HIV is a manageable condition that does not necessary lead to AIDS.

Hans Weishäupl, creative director of das comitee, the group that created the ad for Regenbogen e.V, defended the work:  

A lot of people are not aware that Aids is still murdering many people every day. They wanted a campaign which told young people that it is still a threat," he said. "In Germany, Hitler is the ugliest face you can use to show evil." 

Provocative it may be, but successful? I doubt it. Would it be a gross and malicious misinterpretation to use this ad to say that people who have unprotected sex, or people with HIV or AIDS, are as evil as Hitler? Absolutely. Is it a stretch to say there are folks out there who will do just that? Nope.

Using the evil führer's personage for good is a tricky business, one that should perhaps be left to the Charlie Chaplins of the world. 

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Sudan's neighbors push for unification of North/South

Another piece of news from today's roundtable with Sudan envoy Scott Gration comes more subtlely, but perhaps just as importantly for anyone watching Sudan. "The neighbors" are pushing for unification when a vote comes in 2011. In other words, they are not keen on an independent Southern Sudan.

Gration says: "In many ways, the neighbors are all pushing for unity because they understand that the instability caused by a fledgling nation that is not ready for independence will have ramifications that spread far and wide across Africa. So countries like Ethiopia and Egypt and others are fearing, to some degree, an independence [vote]."

To recap: the 2005 peace agreement signed between North and South Sudan, ending a decades long war, stipulated that in 2011, the autonomous South would hold a referendum in which it would be allowed to decide whether it would prefer independence or unification. If the vote were to happen today, it's almost certain they would vote to become Africa's newest state.

If only it were that easy. In recent months, tensions have picked up along the border. The South blames the North for stirring up trouble and arming militias. The North blames the South for the same. More importantly, there has yet to be a settlement on the referendum law that will govern the 2011 vote. So it's far from clear that Khartoum is ready to let its Southern half... go.

If the neighbors are reluctant, matters are even more complicated. (Imagine moving into a 7 person townhouse with 6 hostile roommates... multiplied by South Sudan's between 7.9 and 9.5 million people.... and you've got the idea). Reticient neighbors would, uh, complicate the process that Gration already described as seriously daunting: "We're trying to bring about an environment [such] that, in five months, we can help make a country -- a country that will have its own currency, if they choose independence, have embassies around the world, have a central bank, control it's own airspace... there's a lot of work."

Gration promised to push ahead with the referendum law, acknowledging the overwhelming popular support for independence.

Unrelated, one more piece of news from the briefing: queried about the statement by the outgoing peacekeeping chief that the war in Darfur is essentially over, Gration replied that the he agreed, but said the tasks ahead in Darfur were no less daunting: "Even though the war, where the technical answer in terms of military view is that the war is over, the insecurity and the fear associated -- fearing for your life -- is still there."